Labatt Family gift supports nursing education, research

Special to Western News

The Labatt Family’s gift will help educate nurses like Nour Al-Farawi, BScN’12, BHSc’12, MN’15, who witnessed first-hand how vulnerable populations can be affected by a health-care crisis while working at a London COVID-19 assessment centre. 

Research, community involvement and technology are at the heart of a $5-million gift to Western from long-time donors and Western supporters Arthur and Sonia Labatt.

The gift to the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing is designed to help researchers explore health inequities to better understand and respond to determinants of health, including violence and trauma, poverty and homelessness, mental health, racism, stigma and discrimination, and access to technologies that support health.

“There has never been a more important time to invest in nursing education and research that will impact the health of people worldwide,” said Western President Alan Shepard. “I want to thank Arthur and Sonia for their incredibly generous and important gift, and for their ongoing dedication to Western.”

As the country and the world continue to battle COVID-19, it has become even more obvious how vulnerable populations can be affected by a health-care crisis. People with mental illness, individuals and families experiencing poverty, and those living in underserviced or under-resourced areas have been affected to a far greater extent.

The Labatt Family’s investment will help address these issues, and advance Western’s international impact in health equity by providing support for academic positions, as well as teaching and research. The gift will establish an endowed research chair, the Arthur Labatt Family Chair in Nursing Leadership and Health Equity.

The chair will attract an independent nursing researcher of national or international caliber. It will build on current community-based partnerships to explore ways to reduce health disparities and create healthier communities, locally and globally. $2 million of the gift will be used to establish the chair, which Western will match to establish a $4-million endowment to support the position.

“The School of Nursing has played an important role in the London community for 100 years,” Arthur Labatt said. “We hope our gift can help continue that tradition and enable nursing professionals to help as many people and communities as possible to improve their health.”

The gift also supports the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Centre for Research on Health Equity and Social Inclusion (CRHESI) – a joint initiative led by Health Sciences and a group of community partners – with $1.5 million to enable researchers to lead meaningful projects that make a difference in the local community and beyond.

CRHESI will lead research projects with community agencies, faculty members and students working together to explore the determinants of health at the local level. Data from these local projects can be extrapolated and applied to national and international communities.

“This incredible gift will help us build on the Labatt Family’s legacy of impact on the health and well-being of Canadians, including some of our most vulnerable citizens, by promoting health equity through nursing research and education,” said Jayne Garland, Health Sciences Dean. “We’re thrilled to expand our partnership with Arthur and Sonia to further achieve transformative change in our health systems.”

In addition to supporting established researchers, $1 million of the gift will help support the next generation of scholars by establishing a fellowship program to support up-and-coming nursing researchers who show early promise in their respective areas of research on health equity.

As Vicki Smye, Director of the School of Nursing, noted, “The Labatt Family’s very generous gift supports the social mandate of nursing for the 21st century – to promote health equity for all.”

The gift also keeps the School of Nursing on the forefront of teaching by directing $500,000 towards purchasing the latest virtual-reality technology. Available to undergraduate students in clinical and theory-based classes, the technology will make Western one of the first Canadian universities to integrate virtual reality technology in the delivery of nursing-specific simulations.

“In the past, nurses weren’t always given the respect they deserved, which was wrong; they are enormously important all over the world,” Arthur Labatt said. “We’re happy to help make a difference, and to bring even greater recognition to this wonderful profession.”